Monday, May 09, 2022

The blank page

 Every piece of writing begins with a blank page.

Whether you use technology, pen, pencil, crayon, quill or a stick in the sand, you are faced with a pristine surface that urges, goads, bullies you to record your thoughts.

When I was a newspaper editor, I told young journalists struggling with how to begin to just put anything down. Don't sweat an opening, it will come. 

The advantage they had, of course, is that they were merely recording facts (in theory anyway) and not creating something out of thin air. They had the basis of what they were about to write in their notepads but still they hesitated, searching for that killer opening.

I've given would-be authors the same advice in workshops - just put something down - anything, even Once Upon a Time, if you have to. One word will follow another and I guarantee sooner or later the correct opener will present itself. It might be something grabby, it might be something descriptive, it might be something so wonderful that people will quote it for decades to come, damn you.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

I don't know if Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and George Orwell had those lines already factored into their plans. I like to think they occurred to them after they had begun writing, mostly because it suits my premise. 

Speaking personally, I have very little factored into my plans when I write. I fact, I don't have any plans to speak of when I write but there have been times when I have come up with what I believe is a cunning twist - say on page 262 - that makes me realise why I had something happen way back on page 84. It's not a way of working that I would recommend but it's the way I seem to be stuck with, thanks to custom, practice, extreme laziness, lack of focus and a mind that goes off in many directions at once and is easily distracted by....oh look, a shiny thing!

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes, writing from scratch.

I met a friend yesterday who is writing her second book. She told me that she's been sailing along quite happily, she's at chapter nine or ten, but she has no idea how it will end.

Well, it's my theory that she actually does know how it will end. Or at least some part of the brain that governs this sort of thing does. It's just that the part of the brain that governs this sort of thing is very secretive and it simply hasn't told her yet.

The part of the brain that governs this sort of thing is like that person in school. You know who I mean - the one who covered up their work so nobody could see. They usually sat beside me and it was infuriating. I mean, what's the point of sitting beside someone who is smart if you can't crib their work? Frankly, I found it very irritating.

Anyway, I think the part of the brain that governs this sort of thing has much of what we write already worked out. That's why I'm not a great believer in writer's block. I think what happens is that the writer has lost faith in what makes them a writer in the first place. Let's call it a gift, which sounds terribly pretentious but that's what it is. We have to trust the gift and let it find the way ahead and sometimes it's by going back. The answer is there, somewhere in that part of the brain that...etc...etc...

So what made me broach this for my fortnightly Type M entry?

Well, I couldn't think of anything to write, so I typed the first thing that came into my mind.

And then, hey presto, I had a blog.

See? It works...

1 comment:

Anna said...

Way to go!